Using STEM challenges in your class is an amazing way to engage and excite your students.
There is something about having the freedom to create that can tap into the imagination and let you feel free. Here is a list of 10 items you can use in your class tomorrow to create STEM Challenges.
You probably already have blocks in your classroom, but blocks are amazing and if you are willing to break out of the block area you can literally see the wheel turning. If you can only afford one thing – get blocks. I love using small math blocks. They often come in big math curriculum kits. These small blocks are perfect for table-top STEM activities
I know, I know, we all want to protect the turtles and keep straws out of landfills. However you can re-use straws over and over. I get a big box at the beginning of the year and it lasts until June. The kids can create countless solutions to problems with straws. I recommend the flexible straws because the kids can really be creative.
Plain old masking tape can be amazing. I often give my kids a STEM challenge with just a limited amount of tape. I love to see how carefully they use the tape in a STEM activity when they know there is a limited amount. I like using masking tape in STEM challenges because it’s easier to work with than clear tape.
#4 Index Cards
I am always amazed at what my kids can create with index cards. You can fold them, curve them, use them to build towers, bridges, houses. The ideas are endless. If you want to see your students become engineers, give them index cards and masking tape and stand back and watch.
#5 Play doh.
I love using play doh and so do my students. Play doh is a great addition to STEM activities because you can use it to secure building. My students have used play-doh to help a piece of dry spaghetti stand up. Once your students have the spaghetti standing increase the STEM challenge by asking them to “string” beads on the dry pasta. How many beads can you “string” while keeping the spaghetti standing up? You can give your students Popsicle sticks to build, but when you give them Popsicle sticks with play-doh the world of creation changes.
Toothpicks and STEM go together like – toothpicks and gumdrops! Toothpicks are a perfect addition to any STEM challenge that include play-doh, marshmallows, gumdrops, even apples any thing you can think of. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous my kindergarten students would stab themselves with the toothpicks, but it has never happened. But be warned if you use gumdrops, they are very, very sticky!
#7 Popsicle sticks
I know it’s a cliche but honestly Popsicle sticks can be amazing. you can build fences, boxes, towers. The list of STEM designs go on and on. I give my students colored Popsicle sticks to add a little extra to our STEM activities.
Clothespins go perfectly with popsicle sticks and STEM. They can become a STEM favorite in your class. You can build incredible towers using clothespins. You can read some great tips for STEM challenges from this blog from Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls
#9 Pipe Cleaners
Pipe cleaners are my STEM favorite because they can be so easily manipluated buy little fingers. You can turn them into an easily manipulated “string” Hang some mittens, build a ladder, cage to catch a leprechaun, or use them to keep a goat on a bridge. Your imagination is the only limit.
Go ask the custodian or nurse for a packet of cups and let their imagination soar.
I have one more BONUS item- BeeBots.
BeeBots are small programmable robots. If you want to make a room of future computer scientists this is the single best place to start. BeeBots are available through Terrapin and if you use the code Dellasfreeship when you check out, you’ll get free shipping. You can also buy them on Amazon. There are two different types of BeeBots, One type is battery operated and one is rechargable. I know it seems like you should buy a rechargable BeeBot but in my experience it just doesn’t hold it’s charge that long. The batteries in my BeeBot have been working for years – literally years without having to swap them out. I’ve been mid-lesson when the charge has run out in my rechargable. No fun for anyone. Save the $20 and get the battery operated BeeBot you’ll thank me.
The beauty of STEM is there is no one way to “do Stem” I always just give my kids a challenge and ask them to solve it. If you need some ideas for STEM challenges you can check out my STEM lessons
If you need ideas for using BEE Bots check out my mats and videos.
Here are some links to Amazon to the items listed above